• Fascinating development with contributions by Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles
• Nut-and-bolt rotisserie restoration completed in 2014
• Only 25,000 original miles believed correct; matching numbers engine
• Outstanding colors, presentation, and features
260 cid Ford V-8 engine, single Autolite two-barrel carburetor, 164 BHP at 4,400 RPM, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with wishbones and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and Panhard rod, power-assisted front disc and rear drum hydraulic brakes; wheelbase: 86”
Conceived by Ian Garrad, the U.S. West Coast manager for Britain’s Rootes Motors, Inc., the Sunbeam Tiger grabbed a share of the growing market for American V-8 powered sports cars during the 1960s. Dropping a powerful American V-8 engine into a small European sports car was no small task, but as Sidney Allard and Carroll Shelby had already proven, the concept was viable and represented the quickest path to race-winning performance.
Rightly, Garrad believed that Rootes’ Sunbeam Alpine roadster was a strong candidate for conversion to V-8 power as a sales booster. The Alpine was certainly attractive and had already won the Index of Thermal Efficiency at Le Mans in 1961 and achieved success in American SCCA competition. Once Garrad obtained approval from Lord Rootes’ son Brian, a Ford 260-powered prototype was built by engineer/racer Ken Miles, who soon after joined Shelby American. Shelby also built a V-8 Alpine conversion, with the car tested by Garrad and then shipped to England for evaluation in the summer of 1963. Company management, including Lord Rootes, enthusiastically approved the project, codenamed ‘Thunderbolt’ and selected Jensen to build it in West Bromwich.
First available in 1964 for sale in the United States, the new car was appropriately named ‘Tiger’ in honor of Rootes’ own 1925/26 V-12 Land Speed Record car and made available the next year for the British Home Market in right-hand drive form. The Tiger’s sales were spurred by marketing that included high-profile product placements in movies and TV, including use in Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s highly popular mid-1960s spy comedy series Get Smart, starring Don Adams as Agent 86, Barbara Feldon as 99, and Edward Platt as “The Chief.” The Tiger’s film career continued with appearances in CHiPs, Bunny Lake is Missing, The Projected Man, Mountain Legend, Ooh…You Are Awful, The Dukes of Hazzard, Jay Leno’s Garage, and even the 2008 Get Smart movie starring Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway.
A strong performer, the Tiger nearly won the SCCA B/Production National Championship in 1966, and with a high power-to-weight ratio, it was a fierce drag racer, taking the 1965 AHRA National Championship in its class. Only some 7,000 Tigers were built through 1968 along two distinct series, the Mk I with an estimated 6,500 (Mk I and Mk IA) produced, and the updated, 289-powered Mk II numbering an estimated 500 or so aimed primarily at the U.S. market. Only Chrysler’s corporate takeover of the Rootes Group, which was initiated in 1964 and completed in 1965, could end the Tiger’s prowl. Inevitably, the Tiger’s engine supplies were discontinued from competitor Ford Motor Company, resulting in the eventual demise of this potent and effective Ford-powered sports car by 1968.
This highly collectible 1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk I is offered from an owner-collector specializing in the best postwar sports cars. It is believed to have traveled only 25,000 miles from new and it clearly benefits handsomely from a thorough, “nut-and-bolt” rotisserie restoration that was completed during 2014. Presented in brilliant Carnival Red livery with sparkling chrome and stainless trim including bumper guards, the Tiger features a Black Pebble interior and hosts a magnificent wood-rimmed steering wheel and matching wooden dashboard paneling housing chrome-rimmed instruments and switchgear. Rolling on the original wheels and hubcaps and equipped with a proper snap-in trunk curtain, the Tiger is further equipped with its matching numbers 260 cubic-inch small-block Ford V-8 engine that retains the original valve covers. Backed by a four-speed manual transmission, this early Tiger offers a superbly balanced chassis with precise rack-and-pinion steering, and power-operated brakes with a seven-inch booster for excellent driving dynamics. Smart collectors of Shelby-influenced 1960s sports cars are starting to gravitate to the Tiger and, if you are looking for a truly great example, this excellent 1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk I is simply a thrilling choice on all possible levels.
1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk I Roadster